May 24: It could be Chidambara Rahasyam or it could be Mayavaram.
Whatever it was, the group officials from Transport Bhavan who headed to 10 Raisina Road at 11 this morning to pick up their new boss were completely in the dark.
They waited for some time before being told to go back. The new surface transport minister, T.R. Baalu, was not coming out.
When they were sleeping, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi had announced — past 1 am — that his ministers would not join until some mistakes were rectified.
Once Rashtrapati Bhavan released the list of portfolios last night, the DMK realised that some of the promises made to it had not been kept. For instance, Baalu had not got shipping, along with surface transport, as had been agreed, according to the party.
This evening in Chennai, flashing an “agreement” he said had been signed between him and Congress leader . Janardhana Reddy on May 21, Karunanidhi said other than Baalu, two ministers of state had also been victims of mistake. One is S.S. Palanimanickkam, promised the revenue department in the finance ministry but allocated commerce and industry; and S. Raghupathy, for whom personnel and internal security in the home ministry were agreed upon, but in the allocation personnel was dropped.
“Continuance in the cabinet or otherwise will hinge on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s response to our demand to fulfil their (Congress) commitment on this issue,” the DMK leader said.
He ruled out withdrawing support to the coalition, but warned that the seven party ministers “will not take charge until this issue is resolved”.
The Prime Minister called up Karunanidhi this morning and, according to the DMK leader, promised to “sort out the matter in 10 days”.
Karunanidhi said the portfolios were discussed over several days after Sonia Gandhi and other top leaders of other allies, including the Left, “persuaded us to join the government”. But it was shocking that the agreement was reversed in just a day “after I reached Chennai without taking me into confidence”.
“It pains me that certain decisions taken after long deliberations should be changed so soon; it shows that a small coterie around Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh is already having its way,” he said.
Early this morning, he had issued a statement asking his ministers not to join until the “person responsible for this serious folly is identified and the mistakes rectified”.
Asked if there was a “Chidambara Rahasyam” (mystery) — an allusion to P. Chidambaram, the finance minister — behind the “mistakes”, Karunanidhi said amid laughter: “I do not know; it could be Mayavaram also.” Mayavaram was the old name of Mayiladuthurai from where the Congress’ Mani Shankar Aiyar won.
In Delhi, there was speculation if the DMK leader had been taken into confidence before appointing Chidambaram as the finance minister. Karunanidhi apparently had expected to be told since Chidambaram, though not of his party, is from Tamil Nadu.
Observers in Chennai suggest that the DMK was eager to hold revenue and personnel (dealing with bureaucratic appointments) so that it could keep tabs on income-tax cases and other matters with a bearing on chief minister Jayalalithaa.
In the Vajpayee government, too, the DMK had desisted from naming a successor to Murasoli Maran after his death.